This Week in Atlantic Hockey: Nov. 25, 2009

Your Typical Thanksgiving Column

It’s time once again for a Thanksgiving Tradition (does four years make a tradition?): the Atlantic Hockey version of Thanks … and No Thanks. Let’s take a look at what each team is thankful for this year … and what each team could do without.

Air Force

Thanks: AFA’s penalty kill tops the nation, killing 61 of 66 opponent power plays so far, and scoring a pair of shorthanded goals as well. The Falcon power play is ranked 10th nationally at 23.2 percent, giving the Falcons the top combined special teams rating in the league.

No Thanks: Air Force opened the season 0-4 after bolting to a 13-0 start last season. Since then, however, the Falcons are 6-1-3 and unbeaten in their last seven contests (4-0-3).

Army

Thanks: The Black Knights’ first line of Cody Omilusik, Owen Meyer and Eric Sefchik have been iron men this season, logging tons of ice time and accounting for 13 of Army’s 30 goals so far. Omilusik had a hat-trick last Friday despite needing stitches during the game.

No Thanks: Army has gotten off to a slow start in games so far, getting outscored 17-9 in the first period.

AIC

Thanks: Some freshmen have made an immediate impact for AIC. Adam Pleskach is leading the team with seven goals, while classmate Richard Leitner is tied for second on the team in scoring with five points. Rookie goaltender Ben Meisner has a save percentage of .933 and two shutouts so far.

No Thanks: The Yellow Jackets, who opened the season with two shutouts in their first two home games, were hammered on home ice by Canisius last weekend, 7-0 and 4-0. AIC had allowed 25 goals through its first nine games, but gave up 11 last weekend.

Bentley

Thanks: The Falcons have liked the second period the best so far this season, scoring 13 of their 31 goals in the middle stanza.

No Thanks: Bentley is in the middle of a stretch of five games in nine days, so it looks like turkey sandwiches on the bus for the Falcons. Bentley is 2-1 so far with a split with Army and a come-from-behind win at Brown. Next up: a trip to the RPI Holiday Tournament this weekend.

Canisius

Thanks: The Golden Griffins have the stellar goaltending tandem of senior Andrew Loewen and sophomore Dan Morrison. They’ve combined for four shutouts so far this season, including one each last weekend.

No Thanks: Canisius will play seven of its final 10 games of the season on the road. The Griffs will play just five home games after the holidays.

Connecticut

Thanks: Freshman Jeff Larson, who came straight out of AAA midgets last season, had a baptism by fire at RIT, allowing 13 goals in a pair of games. After that, Larson allowed just 12 goals total over his next five games, and has made a whopping 375 saves so far this season.

No Thanks: The Huskies have managed just two wins so far this season, and are averaging only 1.69 goals a game, last in the nation.

Holy Cross

Thanks: The Hart Center has been kind to the Crusaders over the years but not so far (0-2-2), at least until Tuesday, when Holy Cross recorded its first home win of the season, a 5-0 victory over Connecticut.

No Thanks: Those five goals scored on Tuesday were the most so far by the Crusaders, who have been shut out twice and limited to one goal four other times. A power play conversion rate of 9.5 percent isn’t helping.

Mercyhurst

Thanks: The Lakers have been struggling this season, losing a few games they probably should have won. I expected a breakout for Mercyhurst two weeks ago, their first weekend homestand. But the Lakers were swept by RIT in a pair of one-goal games. But last weekend, Mercyhurst dominated Holy Cross 5-1 and 4-1 on home ice. Could it be a turning point? Mercyhurst sill has six games left before Christmas, including a pair at Air Force.

No Thanks: Even three shorthanded goals by Mike Gurtler last Friday can’t make up for the fact that Mercyhurst is averaging a league-high 18 penalty minutes a game.

RIT

Thanks: The Tigers have won eight straight games, the longest current winning streak in the nation, and are getting some votes in the USCHO.com/CBS College Sports Division I poll. The last five wins have been by a single goal or with a late ENG.

No Thanks: RIT is in first place in the AHA, a point ahead of Air Force. The difference would be three points if not for a single tick of the clock. RIT lost to the Falcons 3-2 on Oct. 24, thanks to a Matt Fairchild goal with 0.3 seconds left in overtime. That goal was worth a two-point swing in the standings.

Sacred Heart

Thanks: The Pioneers started the season in limbo due to the sudden departure of long-time coach Shaun Hannah. But C.J. Marottolo looks like a good fit, and the team used the adversity to become a closely-knit group that remains optimistic despite the Pioneers’ slow start.

No Thanks: It wasn’t a pretty homecoming on Tuesday for Marottolo, an assistant at Yale for the past 13 seasons. The Bulldogs scored five times in the first nine minutes of the game and coasted to an 8-2 win.

Weekly Awards

Player of the Week for Nov. 23, 2009:
Mike Gurtler — Mercyhurst

Gurtler became the seventh player in Division I history to score three shorthanded goals in a single game last Friday, to lead the Lakers to a 5-1 win over Holy Cross.

Goalies of the Week for Nov. 23, 2009:
Dan Morrison — Canisius

Morrison posted his second straight shutout and third of the season, stopping all 36 shots in a 7-0 win at AIC on Friday.

Andrew Loewen — Canisius

Not to be outdone, Loewen recorded 32 saves in a 4-0 victory over AIC on Saturday. It was Loewen’s sixth career shutout, the most in the school’s D-I era.

Rookie of the Week for Nov. 23, 2009:
Brett Hartung — Bentley

The freshman from Tallahassee, Fla., had three goals last weekend to help the Falcons to a split with Army. Hartung’s four goals are tied for second on the team.

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